Greens Cr Kerry Brown lambasts mayor over recovery funds; fails to gain support of other councillors

Blue Mountains Greens councillor Kerry Brown has criticised the mayor for taking an "executive role" when it comes to distributing funds from the summer bushfires.

She made the criticism when voting against a proposal at the February 25 meeting, which delegates authority jointly to the mayor and the chief executive officer, when fast tracking funding assistance.

"This is becoming an established executive role, when we are talking about where money is being allocated," Cr Brown said of Labor Mayor Mark Greenhill's delegation.

"Twelve of us were elected to represent this community so twelve of us should be making the decisions where the big money for recovery is to be allocated. It is the CEO's role to fine tune the detail, but if it is a significant change then we should have an extraordinary meeting to consider it," she said.

Cr Greenhill was in the process of explaining to the February 25 meeting where significant bushfire funding from federal and state governments had been distributed. Some $1.3 million in state and federal funding has been received to cover damages to the Mountains community and infrastructure from the fires. As of February 11, council conservatively estimates to have spent $1.3 million on bushfire response and recovery.

The initial $1 million went to infrastructure and repair to Mt Wilson, Mt Irvine, Mt Tomah and Berambing ($263,700), Bell Hartley, Blackheath and Megalong Valley (assessed at about $286,300), a community thank you event ($50,000), green waste disposal ($85,000), soil erosion ($22,000), visitor facility track surface ($137,000), dangerous trees on public land ($35,000) asbestos contaminated material pipe removal ($45,000), Love Local campaign ($34,000), town activation program ($76,000). The further $300,000 federal funding will go to a community recovery officer for two years ($160,000), administrative support ($23,000) and the refund of footpath dining and storage fees ($22,000) as well as refund of 50 per cent of commercial property fees back to December last year ($75,000).

Council's chief executive officer Rosemary Dillon with Mayor Mark Greenhill.

Council's chief executive officer Rosemary Dillon with Mayor Mark Greenhill.

Council also applied this month for a $250,000 state government grant to spend on paying casual tour guides to rebuild walking tracks ($100,000), as well as further funding for tourism marketing ($100,000) and more resilience events ($50,000).

Cr Greenhill said he was ensuring the money was distributed as quickly as possible.

"It would be inappropriate, with the greatest respect, to delegate it to the public servant. The CEO [Rosemary Dillon] and I work in concert - it was the CEO's recommendation," he told the meeting.

"The community supported what I have done over two serious bushfires. Any suggestion that I shouldn't be part of that process ... or that it is somehow inappropriate ... would not meet with support from the community."

No-one seconded Cr Brown's motion and it lapsed. She was the only councillor to vote against the bushfire recovery action plan.

As of February 14 there remains a list of activities still for council and emergency services to complete including: Mt Irvine road access, power restoration to some homes, fuel for generators to some affected properties, water to some affected properties, chipping waste service to Bell, Mt Wilson and Mt Tomah and infrastructure staff are still inspecting council assets, liaison with local businesses for further financial help, among other issues.

Twenty homes were destroyed and 126 rural landholders were impacted in the bushfires. Council will be reimbursed $518,000 through section 44 (state of emergency requirement) of the Rural Fires Act.

Blue Mountains council is part of the Greater Sydney regional recovery group with Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Wollondilly councils, as well as state government agencies. The regional group is assisting to plan and develop recovery initiatives for bushfire affected communities that complement the local council-led bushfire recovery plan. A Blue Mountains Bushfire Mayoral Relief Fund has also been established and has so far raised $52,000. Go to bmcc.nsw.gov.au/MRF.

After the meeting the mayor said: "bushfire recovery needs to be solely about the community. I thank councillors for supporting us continuing to do what we have been doing. We put our community first and we focus on getting our support out on the ground quickly. This contrasts with other bodies who seem to be very slow to get the funds where they need to be, quickly."